Euro 2012 Preview:Germany

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Over the past decade the German national team has never been a side boasting of a lot of flair and fluidity. They have been a hard working unit that has relied heavily on a strong work ethic rather than any individual trickery. Ahead of EURO 2012 we see a very different German squad, one with immeasurable flair and talent. Unlike most of his predecessors, Joachim Löw has been blessed with a great deal of attacking gems at his disposal and must thank his stars for this. At first look, most people would consider this abundance of quality players as a boon, but some could look at it as a hindrance to Löw’s selection. This incredibly large number of young players, all of whom have shown remarkable qualities in the recent past, makes it hard for Löw to narrow down to a 23 man squad.



Nonetheless, Löw recently announced his final 23-man squad for the tournament. In the goalkeeping department, Borussia Monchengladbach shot stopper Marc Andre-ter Stegen was left out, following a shaky performance against Switzerland.  His defensive unit remained very similar to what was expected. Captain, Philipp Lahm will have a lot resting on his shoulders given that he will be the backbone of the German defense and also since he will be heading one of the most highly touted and most fan-friendly German sides in recent history.

The German national team is blessed with one of the best group of midfielders in the world. Ranging from workhorse midfielders like Sami Khedria to versatile creative attackers like Marco Reus, this German side has it all. To choose a select few from the truckload of attacking midfielders must indeed have been Löw’s hardest job in a long while, but he has finally made his choice, leaving most people fairly satisfied.
The one area in which Löw might feel somewhat short of quality players is in the strikers department. With just two outright strikers named by the Nationaltrainer, fans will be worried if either picks up an injury and the other decides to fire blanks. It could go down to either Lukas Podolski or Marco Reus being used as strikers – genius or folly, it remains to be seen.

23-MAN SQUAD


Goalkeepers – Manuel Neuer, Tim Wiese, Ron-Robert Zieler
Defenders – Holger Badstuber, Per Mertesacker, Benedikt Howedes, Marcel Schmelzer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Philipp Lahm
Midfielders – Lars Bender, Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira, Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle, Lukas Podolski
Strikers – Mario Gomez, Mirosav Klose

A TACTICAL LOOK

Given the talent in midfield, Joachim Löw will either use a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-4-1 formation. Knowing that this German defense is not a very reliable unit – especially after the Switzerland performance – Löw will most probably use a two man holding midfield, to help assist the defense. At the moment, it seems like Manuel Neuer will keep his place behind the sticks, but a few of his renowned blunders could give either Wiese or Zieler a chance in the first team.


Löw will have to make sure that he gets his choices right in selecting his four man defense, since that will undoubtedly be Germany’s weakness. On paper, a back four of Lahm, Badstuber, Hummels and Schmelzer seems fairly solid, but the center backs’ inability to perform consistently for Die Mannschaft will be a growing concern. Per Mertesacker’s history will surely work against his inclusion in the starting XI, but experience might count. Jerome Boateng might seem like their most unlikely option at the moment, but he could well replace Hummels and Mertesacker after the first couple of games. At right back Lahm is a clear favorite with Howedes there as backup. On the left Schmelzer will be the weakest link in the German defense, which could force Löw to move Lahm onto the left and use Howedes on the right. We could see a constantly changing defensive line in the Germans’ EURO 2012 campaign.


Most managers would be extremely jealous of Löw, given the number of sensational midfielders available at his disposal. Assuming he does use a two man holding midfield, Khedira and Schweinsteiger seem like the most likely candidates to occupy those positions. The likes of Bender and Gundogan will only be used of the bench, with Kroos seeming like the biggest rival to Khedira’s spot in the starting lineup. If club form does count for Löw’s selection, Kroos will surely be starting alongside Schweinsteiger, forming one of the most dangerous central midfield pairings at the tournament.


Bastian Schweinsteiger

The three attacking midfielders will have to be chosen from among six players. Podolski should start on the left side of that unit, while Ozil will play behind the lone striker. With two spots most surely occupied, only the right flank is up for grabs. If it is experience that Löw is after, Thomas Muller will continue to hold onto his World Cup 2010 position, but if current form is the key factor, Marco Reus seems like the favorite to occupy the right flank. Writing off Gotze from the starting XI would be blasphemous, especially after his performance against Brazil. Schurrle seems like a dark horse to start, requiring a fair amount of luck to see him get a spot in the starting XI. There is also the option of playing Kroos behind the striker and shifting Ozil onto the right flank. This variation might see the right flank less used, with Ozil drifting into the center a lot more – not a bad option in anyway.

With two strikers, Löw isn’t really spoilt for choice. Klose’s ability to put in unbelievably sensational performances for Germany is very well known, making him their first choice striker. Mario Gomez has had two sensational seasons and one would expect him to automatically merit a spot in the starting lineup, but that’s football. With Klose’s fitness a worrying factor and Gomez’s ability to disappear in big games adding to Löw’s woes, surprises could be in store for us. Podolski does have a keen eye for goal and has played as a striker at Koln all season long. If needed, he could easily fill in as a striker and possibly prove to be the key to Germany’s success. Another option would be Reus. Just like Podolski, the former Gladbach star has played in this position for club and can be called upon at times of need.
 

A Conventional and more defensive line up


Attack, attack and attack
                                            
Being drawn in the group of death makes things a lot harder for the Germans. Against aDutch side blessed with some of the World’s best attacking talents, the German defense will have to be at its best, while their attack will have to ensure that the similarly shaky Dutch defense is completely mutiliated. Portugal, being a side with an unstable backline and a star studded attack, will be a very similar task. The three big boys will all be facing mirror images of each other in the group stage and it could all go down to tactical suprises to decide who goes through to the knockout stage. The fourth team in the group is Denmark, probably the most underrated side in the tournament. Taking Denmark too lightly could prove to be the downfall of the Germans. Disposing of the Danes will be most crucial for Löw’s men and once again, an attacking blitz could be the need of the day.



Aditya Balaram

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